This career lets you travel the world

Love to travel the world? Wish you could get paid to do it? Find out what it takes to become a pilot, and decide if it’s the career for you.

Almost everyone dreams of traveling the world, seeing far off places, and experiencing diverse cultures. Unfortunately, travel is prohibitively expensive, and most people can’t afford to do it frequently.

Pilots are a different story, they get to travel all over the world, and they don’t spend any money doing it. In fact, pilots actually get paid to travel the world, and experience all it has to offer. 

How much do pilots make? 

Many potential pilots are drawn to the industry, after hearing about how much money pilots can make. It is true that pilots have the potential to earn a substantial salary, but not all pilots are equally compensated.

In 2021, the median salary for a commercial pilot was $134,630, well above the median household income for the same year, which was $70,784. However, most pilots will not start out making quite this much money, with the starting salary being closer to about $74,000 for a commercial pilot just starting their career.

On the other end of the spectrum, experienced pilots can make upwards of $600,000 a year, once they are well established in their career. 

The pros and cons to becoming a pilot

As with any career, there are positives and negatives to becoming a pilot. It is up to each would-be pilot if they believe the highs outweigh the lows. 

The pros of becoming a pilot

Here are some of the pros of becoming a pilot:

  • The most obvious benefit of being a pilot is, of course, traveling. Pilots get to travel all over the world, seeing a wide variety of places, all while getting paid. 
  • Pilots can receive travel discounts for their family and friends. These discounts allow for your loved ones to take extremely cheap, or even free, flights.
  • Pilots do not have to take work home with them. Once those cockpit doors close behind you, you are free to enjoy your life and not worry about work.
  • Pilots can have an extremely flexible schedule. They do not have to work 9-5, Monday-Friday. 
  • Most pilots love flying. They get paid to partake in something they are passionate about, a luxury many people do not have.

The cons of becoming a pilot

And here are some of the cons of becoming a pilot:

  • When you pilot an aircraft, you are taking the lives of all passengers aboard into your hands. This can cause pilots to feel a high amount of stress.
  • The training to become a pilot is extremely expensive, and can take a long time to complete successfully. 
  • If they want to work for an international airline, pilots must be prepared to spend substantial time away from home.

Choosing the right flight school 

When learning to fly, as with any skill, it is important to start by building a solid foundation. In the case of flying, this foundation will be built at flight school. This is where you learn all of the knowledge and skills you will need to begin a successful career as a pilot.

Not all flight schools are created equally, and it is important to choose yours carefully. There are three types of flight school to choose from, fast-track airline programs, collegiate programs, and local-airport FBO.

Fast-track airline programs can be a great choice if you want to start your career as soon as possible. These are programs designed to turn someone with no flight experience, into a licensed commercial pilot quickly and safely.

This usually means an intense daily training regimen, which is basically a full time job. The quick pace of fast-track programs often makes them the cheapest option overall. If you choose this route, it is best to go with an accredited program, which will ensure that the instructors, equipment, and curriculum meet strict standards. 

Collegiate programs are exactly what they sound like, a flight program done through a college or university. These programs are usually the most expensive option by far, but have the added benefit of obtaining a college degree when you are finished. This is also the longest option, usually taking 4 years to complete.

Local airport fixed base operators (FBOs) are the most casual of the flight school options. This is when you take lessons, with an instructor at your airport, at your convenience. This option can be helpful to someone who wants to slowly earn their pilots license, while still working a full time job. However, this option can make it difficult to get a lot of flight hours under your belt, and can take a long time, depending on your schedule. 

The requirements to become a pilot

Before you can start getting paid to fly, there are a few requirements you will need to meet. First, you will need to complete the pilot school requirements. This entails, finishing the ground school classes, as well as completing the flight hour requirements.

You will also need to pass a medical examination. This is when a doctor examines you, and certifies that you have no health issues that will interfere with flying. Once you have finished flight school and passed your medical examination you will have earned your commercial pilots license.

However, just because you have obtained your license, does not mean you are entitled to a job at an airline right away. To be hired, most major airlines will require you to have more flight hours than you earned while obtaining your license. If you want to become an airline pilot, you will have to continue training, or find another job that allows you to build up more flight hours.

Becoming a pilot is a major commitment. It takes time, discipline, and dedication, and should only be undertaken by those who are sure it is what they want to do with their life.